How to Choose the Right HVAC Training Program near San Tan Valley Arizona
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near San Tan Valley AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for San Tan Valley AZ HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in just 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near San Tan Valley AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in San Tan Valley AZ, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one approach in attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some San Tan Valley AZ students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from San Tan Valley and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic schedule.
Questions For HVAC Training Classes
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the San Tan Valley AZ area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the San Tan Valley AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of San Tan Valley AZ HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your San Tan Valley AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near San Tan Valley AZ, verify that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to search for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in San Tan Valley AZ.